Leiths How to Cook
300 ml
Peter Cassidy

We use a basic ratio of 1 egg yolk to 150 ml oil. A mild flavoured oil such as sunflower is preferable, as a strongly flavoured oil like extra virgin olive oil may overpower the dish it accompanies.


Quantity Ingredient
2 egg yolks, at room temperature
pinch english mustard powder
300ml sunflower oil, (or a combination of sunflower and light olive oil)
white pepper
lemon juice, to taste
or white wine vinegar, to taste


  1. Put the egg yolks into a medium, fairly deep bowl and put a pinch of salt and mustard powder on top of the yolks. Using a wooden spoon, mix the egg yolks and seasoning together.
  2. Hold a fork with your other hand, dip it into the oil and then drip the oil onto the egg yolks, while stirring the yolks at the same time. Add a third of the oil in this way.
  3. Once a third of the oil has been added and the emulsion created, start adding the oil ¼ teaspoon at a time, still stirring as you add it. Then progress to ½ teaspoon oil at a time. If the mayonnaise becomes very thick and looks greasy, add ¼–½ teaspoon lemon juice, wine vinegar or warm water, depending on whether you think the mayonnaise needs acidity or not. This will make it less greasy, thin it and help it to absorb more oil.
  4. Once half to two-thirds of the oil has been added, add the rest slowly in a thin stream and keep stirring. Try to incorporate all of the oil to balance the egg flavour.
  5. Taste the mayonnaise. Season it with salt and white pepper, and add lemon juice or wine vinegar as needed to balance the oil and acidity.
  6. You should now have a shiny, thick, smooth mayonnaise. If you are not using it immediately, cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate.


  • This mayonnaise can be kept in the fridge for up to a week if stored in a screw-topped jar in the fridge.


  • Herb mayonnaise: Add 3 tablespoons chopped herbs (chervil, chives, parsley etc) to the finished mayonnaise.

    Aioli: Add 3 or 4 crushed garlic cloves to the egg yolks before starting to add the oil. If you prefer a milder garlic flavour, roast the garlic cloves in their skins in an oven preheated to 180ºC for 20–30 minutes until soft. Release the softened garlic from the skin, crush and add to the yolks as for the raw garlic.

    Gribiche sauce: Soft-boil 2 eggs and use the soft-cooked yolks to create the emulsion. Finely chop the cooked egg white and add to the finished mayonnaise with 1 tablespoon each of finely chopped capers and shallots and 1–2 tablespoons chopped tarragon, chives, parsley or chervil, or a mixture. This sauce is traditionally served with fish or chicken.

    Mustard mayonnaise: Add 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard to the egg yolks with the salt instead of the mustard powder. Flavour the finished mayonnaise with 1–2 tablespoons wholegrain mustard to taste.

    Sweet miso sauce: Mix together 1 tablespoon white miso paste, 2 teaspoons wasabi paste, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 2 tablespoons water and 1 teaspoon soft light brown sugar, to form a smooth paste. Stir this into the finished mayonnaise. This is good served with griddled fish.

    Tarragon sauce: Add 3 tablespoons chopped tarragon to the finished mayonnaise. Thin down to the required consistency with well-flavoured, cold chicken and veal stock or vegetable stock. Lovely served with a chicken salad.

    Tartare sauce: To the finished mayonnaise, add 1–2 tablespoons each of rinsed and finely chopped gherkins and capers and 1–2 tablespoons each of finely chopped parsley and shallot. (The shallot can be strong so you might prefer to use just 1 tablespoon.) This sauce is typically served with fish.

Creating the emulsion

  • This happens during the first few minutes of adding the oil to the egg yolk. A constant stirring with one hand and dripping oil in with the other is necessary to ensure that the oil is quickly and evenly dispersed into the yolks. If the oil is added too quickly there is a danger of curdling/splitting the sauce. Curdling happens when the yolks and oil separate and the stable emulsion you have created is destroyed.

Balancing the acidity

  • It is important to add enough acidity in the form of lemon juice or white wine vinegar to achieve a balance between the oil and acidity. The mayonnaise contains 300 ml oil and 2 egg yolks. If there is not enough acidity the mayonnaise will taste flat and oily.

How to remedy curdled mayonnaise…

  • Start with a new egg yolk in a medium bowl. Slowly add the curdled mayonnaise, while stirring, until an emulsion is created again, then start to add the curdled mayonnaise a little more quickly until it is all incorporated. As you have now used 3 egg yolks you might need to add more oil, up to 150 ml to balance the flavour.

To lighten mayonnaise…

  • Use 1 whole egg and 1 egg yolk for 300 ml mayonnaise. Egg white contains a lot of water so it may take a little longer for the emulsion to be created and the mayonnaise to thicken, but it can give a less cloying taste.

Making mayonnaise in a food processor or blender

  • To ensure the blade is covered by the yolks and seasoning, use a small food processor bowl; at least double the quantities if using a blender. Switch the motor on and slowly add the oil in a single stream, but not too quickly or the mayonnaise may curdle. It should thicken quite quickly. Adjust the seasoning as necessary.
Leiths School of food and wine
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